MISSOULA — Earlier this year, the Montana State Legislature passed two new laws impacting school bus safety, and upgrades on buses statewide are on the way.
House Bill 207 legislated that more red lights could be added to school buses to alert drivers, and House Bill 267 legislated that stop arms should extend further into the roadway obstructing traffic.
MTN News spoke with Sgt. Jay Nelson, Montana Highway Patrol Public Information Officer, to learn more details.
“[It's] one more reminder, both visible and actual structure - the seeing the stop sign coming out, that says you have to stop for the children on-boarding and off-boarding the school bus," Nelson said.
Highway Patrol will enforce these new regulations during bi-annual bus inspections, while funding and implementation is set to come from the Office of Public Instruction. These changes will start to take place October 1st.
The upgrades coincide with a harsher violation consequence written into law.
"House Bill 267 actually makes it, you can be charged with reckless driving, should you pass a school bus with its red lights illuminated," Nelson.
According to Nelson, last year there were 99 school bus violations across the state. The year before had 115.
The two new laws are intended to increase safety for the child passengers who depend on this transportation.
"This is way too many when it comes to our children coming on and off the bus," Nelson said, “Montana's most valuable resource our children, and we have to do everything we can as motorists to ensure their safety coming on and off the bus. When you see the yellow lights, the red lights, you have to stop, no matter how much of a hurry you might be in.”
To learn more about the nuances of school bus safety and road rules, the Montana Highway Patrol has videos listed on its Facebook page.